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Therrien Redux

The long wait is over, and the result was almost too predictable to bother getting excited about. Michel Therrien is back as Head Coach as the Montreal Canadiens. No, this is not 2000-2001 all over again.

The question we are asking this morning is Therrien really Bergevin’s guy, or is he merely the “least of all evils” among a small list of pre-determined coaches? Were Bergevin’s hands tied from the very beginning? You could certainly make that case.

As happy as the Antichambre gang must be this morning with their pal running the Habs bench, colour me unimpressed. A guy who had Crosby and Malkin playing the trap in the Cup finals? Thanks, but no thanks (but Kyle – he was IN the Cup finals! Please, spare me.).

Sure, I suppose he could have changed and grown in the years since being fired from Pittsburgh, but when selecting a coach to lead a new era, I’d like to pin my hopes to something other than “maybe he’s changed” or “everyone deserves a second chance”. I’m sorry, but the whole “wing and a prayer” act is getting old, isn’t it?

When Geoff Molson spoke earlier this year about the next generation to lead his team, he painted a very pretty picture and made everyone feel warm & fuzzy about the future. His carefully worded PR text tricked virtually everyone in to thinking that he would hire the best people for the job – the job being to restore the Canadiens as an elite team in the league – regardless of what their birth certificate read. Yeah, so much for that. If you believed that, I’ve got a 2 bedroom bungalow with a half-finished basement just west of Montreal that I’d like to sell you for the bargain-basement price of $500,000.

It’s business as usual in Montreal, where winning is a happy bonus, so long as politics and profits come first.

At least my theory of the Habs pollinating the league with rookie francophone coaches so that they could later call on them again is coming true.

I truly hope that Michel Therrien surrounds himself with accomplished assistants and brings a new philosophy to Montreal. This blog wouldn’t exist if I wasn’t a die-hard Habs fan that desperately wants to see the Canadiens doing well. But Therrien’s last reign in Montreal was mired in mediocrity and a saddled with the same passive-aggressive junk that Jacques Martin came to be loathed for (but Kyle – who would have won with those Habs teams??? Zzzzz).

When Jacques Martin was hired, I had an open mind. But it took less than 2 months before I had completely soured on him. I’m going to try and approach this hiring with the mindset that with a better roster, and with experience gained, that Therrien could be a good short-term hire. I fully expect that Therrien will be fired before 3 seasons are complete, as every Habs Head Coach since Pat Burns has, so in some respects the clock is already ticking on Therrien 2.0. Every coach has a shelf life, and Therrien’s act of alienating veterans seems to wear thin rather quickly.

On the plus side, Michel Therrien is a departure (or a return?) to the fiery, passionate coach that we’ve wanted since Martin put us all to sleep. He also won’t let this team get pushed around by virtually everyone, as it has for the past several years. This team will certainly be tougher under Therrien. How that translates to wins is anyone’s guess, but it will be a welcome sight to see this group push back instead of shy away. He also has NHL experience. The success and quality of that experience is debatable, but the Canadiens were wise, in my opinion, to not pluck another rookie coach from the ranks of the Quebec Major Junior League.

That being said, this hiring feels very much like Bergevin’s first big mistake, and while it may be harsh to be that absolute before the team’s roster has been overhauled, it’s easy to see why so many fans feel this way. Therrien represents a coach from the Habs deeply depressing dark ages that NOBODY wants to revisit, and he represents Molson’s lie that the best man for the job would be hired, language be damned.

While everyone’s knee-jerk reaction today is based on ancient history (albeit a scarring history), it is still conjecture. Strange things happen in hockey, and this year’s L.A. Kings team is proof of that. But relying on strange things is usually a fool’s game. Let’s see what type of changes Marc Bergevin makes to the roster. Let’s see who is hired to flank Michel Therrien behind the bench. Let’s hear what Michel Therrien has to say at his press conference. And finally, let’s wait to see what the on-ice product looks like on the ice before passing final judgement. Every coach makes mistakes, and it will be difficult to avoid those who will hold up every mistake that Therrien makes as evidence of this being a poor hire. Let’s just call it down the middle, yeah?

And at least we can hopefully look forward to some epic rants, right? Isn’t that the best part of a Therrien redux?

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